Sunday, February 26, 2006
Saturday, February 25, 2006
What is this diet called?
I refer to it as the Eat Less Exercise More diet or ELEM.
Why haven’t I already purchased an expensive book or watched an inane infomercial about this diet?
The name could not be copyrighted and the principles are already known to most folks whose age and IQ add up to more than 90.
Which foods can be eaten with the ELEM diet!
You can consume edible foods, as well as some institutional food service foods and “convenience” foods.
What is the basic idea?
How much less?
Less than you usually eat.
How will I know if I am eating less, do I count calories or grams of fat and carbohydrates?
Heck no! Most folks can’t even see a calorie and they think a gram is a kind of cracker. This diet works for everyone. Anyone who can put on pants will immediately know when this diet is working. Their pants will become looser over time.
But what if I am eating less and my pants aren’t any looser?
This sometimes occurs when you aren’t actually eating less. This is why the fail safe back up, Exercise More, is part of the plan.
To answer that question we have to go back in history to the age of “actual work”. Actual work involved people who made their living by moving heavy things and traveling long distances using only their muscles. The number of people who do actual work has dwindled to a tiny fraction of the populations of industrialized countries. Exercise is the new name for lifting heavy things and traveling long distances using only your muscles, but it has nothing to do with making a living.
Doesn’t my work count as exercise?
It is likely that your work involves moving mostly your fingers and lips. They just aren’t heavy enough.
How much should I exercise?
Lift heavy things or move most of your body by using your muscles until you are tired.
I’m dead tired most days. Does that mean I am exercising enough?
No. You have to get tired by lifting heavy things or moving your body.
I am pretty sure that most people know that if they eat less and exercise more they will lose weight. Why are so many people still fat?
We don’t do it.
Who should use the ELEM diet plan?
People who are actually fat, not people who are thin or who just think they are fat.
Does my age matter?
Of course it does. Every year you live, you are one year closer to your death. That is a great example of an asinine question.
I am having trouble getting started on the part where I eat less and exercise more. What should I do?
Trouble is to be expected. Most people have large amounts of trouble during an average year. The real secret to motivation is to let yourself be troubled by the fact that you are fat. We all have an innate desire to avoid trouble. If being fat troubles you more than being hungry or tired, you can lose weight.
I don’t feel troubled about being fat.
Then why are you reading a long FAQ about how to lose weight?
Are you advocating guilt?
Not necessarily, vanity or an unhealthy concern about what others think of you can be just as effective as guilt.
Are you saying that only guilty, vain, or self conscious people can follow this plan?
Absolutely not! People who care about their health will also benefit. However, there aren’t many people like that.
I am having trouble believing that something so simple can be true.
It is exactly because it is simple that you are having trouble believing.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Sunday, February 19, 2006
This was a public display of affection. For reasons unknown, I want to make it even more public, so here it is for anyone who chooses to tune into to this blog. The old battered guy is me. The beautiful young woman is Barbara, my wife. We were dancing at the reception after the wedding of two of our very closest friends. It was just weeks before the wedding of our daughter Julia. I am so blessed to love her and be loved by her. I pray that God will give me more love and more ways to serve her. I pray that he will conform my mind to the mind of Christ. I want to love her as Christ loves the church.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
I have seen millions of people milling around like ants. Examples would be Tokyo subway stations, Mardi Gras crowds between parades, rock concerts before the show starts. Oh yeah, millions and millions in 55 years.
I have seen millions of people wheeling in formation like flocks of birds. They are full of purpose. Yet the purpose may be hidden or not very relevant to me. Examples include antiwar protests, parades, crowds cheering a team, a sport, a singer.
I have seen thousands of people (many thousands) like deer in the woods. They are alone or in small groups. If they see me at all they respond cautiously. I have only the vaguest sense of what has brought them to this spot and what will take them away again.
I have seen thousands of people just as I might see monkeys in the zoo: playing, interacting, sleeping, waiting, and none of it really involves me the spectator.
I have joined with thousands of people as a participant in cheering, worshipping, protesting, or playing in large groups.
I have talked one on one or in small groups with thousands of people. We have told each other stories. We laugh. We listen. We care, but we are careful how much we show it.
I have talked very seriously with hundreds of people. We have shared our problems. We have explored our beliefs. We have confessed our failures.
The Lord knows how many people I have argued with. I am afraid to think of it.
I have shared meals, really shared, with hundreds of people. We sat at a table or on the ground. We passed the food. Sometimes we thanked God for it.
I have embraced many dozens of people. Sometimes it was a full strong hug. Sometimes it was a quick arm around a shoulder. Sometimes there was tension. Sometimes there was a wonderful sense of peace.
I have wept with dozens of people. I cried or my heart was touched by their weeping. Sometimes it was for a brief moment. Sometimes it was only a couple of times in a lifetime of knowing that person. My father cried in my presence only twice that I can remember. The same is true for my mother. My wife and I have wept together many times. My children, my friends, my coworkers, my brothers and sisters in the Lord have wept with me or me with them. Sometimes we hold each other or at least touch.
There are less than a dozen people that I have nursed when they were ill or who have tended to me at such times. Seldom have I cleaned others or cleaned up after they vomited, sweated, or lost control of bowel or bladder. Most of those times were with my children. I want to love many people enough to do such things for them. However, the truth is that I almost always avoid it if possible.
I have only helped to care for one person’s lifeless body. My father died in his sleep at a family reunion. I helped to move his body and zip it into the body bag. I helped lift it onto a gurney and rolled it to the coroner’s SUV. My father was gone. Only his body remained.
Relationships happen at a whole bunch of levels, from passive and superficial to active and deep. Without them I would be nothing worth mentioning.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Child Labor. Despite a 1991 Supreme Court (India) ruling that child labor in tobacco should be
prohibited, more than 325,000 children labor in the bidi industry in India. Older children (over
ten) roll 1,500 to 2,000 bidis each day, six and a half days a week. For their labor, they may
earn as little as four rupees a day. In comparison, the government-set minimum wage for bidi
rolling is 30.9 rupees per 1000 bidis rolled.15 Bidi rolling is classified by the (India) Child Labor
Prohibition and Regulation Act as hazardous because the working position produces chronic
back pain, interferes with normal growth patterns, and causes physical deformation. Bidi rollers
also suffer lung disease from constantly inhaling tobacco dust. They have high rates of
tuberculosis, asthma, and other lung disorders.16 On November 24, 1999, the U.S. Customs
Service banned the importation of bidis produced by Ganesh Bidi Works in Mangalore, India,
after receiving evidence that the company uses indentured child labor to produce the bidis.17
Under section 1307 of the Tariff Act of 1930, it is illegal to import merchandise into the United
States that is made with indentured labor.18
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, June 12, 2001
15 Human Rights Watch, “The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labor in India” 1996. In 1995, the exchange
rupee/dollar exchange rate was approximately 34 rupees to the dollar. Minimum wage for bidi rolling was
approximately 89 cents per 1000 bidis rolled.
16 Human Rights Watch, “The Small Hands of Slavery: Bonded Child Labor in India” 1996.
17 “Attorneys General Call for Crackdown on Bidi Cigarettes” NAAG News Release, 6 December 1999.
18 19 USC Sec. 1307.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
I first visited Singapore on business about 1980. It is a tiny country. It was already quite prosperous by Asian standards. Today it can be considered wealthy by most standards.
I was there, as were many Americans and Europeans, to take advantage of very low cost labor.
As an idealistic thirty something young man, I had struggled a bit with guilt over the idea of hiring Singaporeans willing to work for very low wages. The word exploit was determined to assert itself into my thinking. However, as I visited our factory, I was struck by how similar it was to our facilities in the U.S. The building was simple, but nicely constructed. A bell rang twice a day, and assembly line workers, engineers, and management would all gather in the hall for snacks and tea. There was a pleasant cafeteria where a food server was determined to dredge the soup for an extra chicken’s foot for me, an honored guest. The workers chuckled as I toured the line. To this day they assure me that I am an exact twin for Kenny Rogers. Just a year or so ago a young factory planner convulsed with laughter when, apropos of nothing, I said “You think I look like Kenny Rogers, don’t you?”
There is no worker’s paradise in this world. I have been in many factories since, some worse, some better. Some of those factories were in the U.S. or Europe; others have been in various parts of Asia. I certainly understand that some truly wretched work places exist in this world. The bidi factories in India are an infamous example. Go here www.tobaccofreekids.org/ research/factsheets/pdf/0037.pdf if you need convincing. Or read “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair if you would like a home grown example. However, I also know that many of the alternatives to an industrialized society are not nearly as lovely as we might hope.
There are no agrarian paradises, for the same reason there are no industrial paradises. We humans miss the mark, and miss it often. A less popular word for this is “sin”. I am told that even farm work with internal combustion engines is tough. I am told by folks who have actually farmed using only animal and human muscle, that it is very hard work indeed. It is hard work that must be shared by the whole family. Taking one day a week to rest is audacious act of faith in those circumstances. My oldest daughter lived in Tanzania for a few months. She told me of whole villages who were chased off the best land and away from water sources by their more aggressive neighbors. She saw a culture where the men lounged while the women bore the entire burden of farming, child rearing, and keeping house. During my first trip to Singapore, a day trip driving through the Malaysia jungle and plantations, brief though it was, was enough to convince me that using a machete or a hoe for twelve hours a day in humid 100 degree air might be a tough way to earn a living. Certainly it can be tougher than spending long hours assembling widgets for someone twelve thousand miles away.
At last this brings me to the World Trade Organization. It happens that I know almost nothing about the World Trade Organization other than that it purports to promote world trade. I know only a little more about those who are opposed to the World Trade Organization on the grounds that it promotes a system whereby richer countries exploit poorer ones, especially by using their populations as a source of cheap labor. It would seem that hiring workers for factories built in other countries is seen as being the modern version of the slave plantations at home and abroad in the nineteenth century.
Sadly, in most of the world, oppression and exploitation are certainly common. It may be home grown, or it may be instituted by folks from other countries. The folks who institute such oppression may be rich or may be dirt poor. Exploitation is an equal opportunity enterprise. All colors, all faiths, all ages, and both sexes may promote it or may suffer it. To impugn “multinational corporations” as the biggest perpetrators of such injustice strikes me as foolish. It is foolish to think that willing workers vying for a job at wage that will better their lives should be seen as ill treated.
I am, however, willing to scrutinize my own motives and actions. Am I best using the riches with which God has blessed me? Do I feel compassion for those folks who must work much harder and who have much less? Am I personally doing more each year to help those who are oppressed? What part do I play in promoting injustice?
I invite my readers to do the same. Once you have done so, do not purchase the sneakers or the MP3 player if you are convinced that the company that manufactured them is doing more harm than good.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Saturday, February 04, 2006
A few days ago I realized that Russell had almost as big an impact on my life before I was a Christian as C.S. Lewis has since. He was an icon for the secularists. He epitomized those who disdain religion or any sort of spirituality. He believed he spoke the bright clear truths that centuries of ignorance, superstition, and priestly ambition had obscured.
I don’t think I even knew his name until I was in my twenties. I have known him only from his frequently cited quotes and infamous controversies since that time. Last week as I read a long quote by him, I got curious and began to research his life and philosophy. I had not realized until that moment how much I had been influenced by him and by like minded folk. As I read some of his essays, it occurred to me that his conclusions were virtually identical to those I believed I had arrived at through my own experiences, education, and musing. I am still left to wonder how much I was programmed by folks like Russell and how much was simply a matter of being just as sadly misled and seriously self deluded as he was.
I am very thankful that God exposed the pain and horror that lay at the end of the thinking that I shared with Russell. I have seen no evidence that Russell was ever able to comprehend it. It is very sad to think he may have lived a long, affluent, celebrated life and all the while walked a road to utter despair.
Here is the quote that shocked me into realizing just how much I had been like him:
(1957) Why I am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, London: George Allen and Unwin; New York: Simon and Schuster; page 108
That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and beliefs are but the outcomes of accidental collisions of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction … that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.
I thank God that my foundation of despair crumbled. I thank God that I fell into his loving arms. He saved me from an eternity of inhabiting my own soul, separated from him.